Recently, I wrote about a potential outbreak of respiratory disease in dogs in Ottawa, Ontario. That "outbreak" seems to have died down (as is common, since outbreaks typically burn out over a period of time). However, I had a call today about a similar situation that might be occurring in the Whitby (Ontario) area. A few veterinarians are reporting a spike in "kennel cough" cases, including some dogs with severe disease. Whether this is truly an outbreak, and whether it’s related to the Ottawa situation are both unclear, but it’s concerning to get two similar reports over a relatively short period of time.

Situations like this can be caused by a variety of factors, including

  • Movement of a known pathogen into a new area. Emergence of canine influenza in Ontario is my main concern in this category.
  • Increased disease caused by typical pathogens that are present in the area.
  • Hyper-awareness (and increased reporting), as opposed to a true outbreak.

Veterinarians and dog owners should be aware that something different may be going on in different Ontario regions, and consider more thorough diagnostic testing should respiratory disease be encountered. Including testing for canine flu would be a good idea. The two most common and effective ways to test for this disease are:

  • Seroconversion: Detection of an increase in antibody levels against canine influenza virus in blood samples taken 10-14 days apart.
  • Detection of virus by PCR: This molecular test looks for viral RNA. Testing can be done by certain labs on deep nasal swabs.

Testing does cost money (not much, but free testing isn’t available) and it’s sometimes hard to convince people that testing is useful, since it may not change the treatment for an individual dog. However, it is important to find out what caused the disease in order to explain why disease happened, to help prevent further disease in the individual dog, to determine optimal vaccination programs, and to provide important information for protection of other dogs in the community.